A step-by-step guide to becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN)

Registered nursing positions comprise the highest percentage of employment among health care practitioners nationwide, with a force of more than 2.5 million active workers in 2009, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that their numbers are expected to grow. With a 22 percent increase in projected employment between 2008 and 2018 translating to nearly 600,000 new jobs in the sector, more and more people are wondering how to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). This guide details the usual steps for the process, as well as a few useful tips that might help you on your way.

1. Receive a high school diploma or equivalency degree

All paths to becoming an advanced practice registered nurse begin with a high school education. If you've yet to complete this step, several online education programs offer coursework that can help you gain the essential knowledge that a high school diploma signifies.

2. Complete an Associate or Bachelor of Science degree program

Completing an Associate or Bachelor of Science degree program is the next step. An associate degree can be sufficient for some positions, and certain hospital facilities even offer diploma programs that train and certify aspiring registered nurses. However, in many cases, a bachelor's degree is preferable; it can help qualify RNs for a wider range of positions, and can even help you learn important skills relevant to the next step on our list.

3. Pass the GRE and NCLEX-RN

All registered nurses must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination, known in the field as the NCLEX-RN, in order to earn a nursing license. Maintaining a career in the industry while getting the education necessary to become an advanced practice registered nurse could easily be beneficial to a student's future career prospects. The Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, is required of all students who wish to pursue a master's degree.

4. Earn a Master of Science Degree in Nursing (MSN)

A post-graduate education is meant to convey specialized instruction to help a registered nurse advance to an advanced practice registered nurse. It's during this step that an aspiring APRN usually decides on his or her preferred branch of advanced nursing, typically choosing between nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA) and certified nurse midwife (CNM).

The Master of Science in Nursing degree track usually takes about 24 months to complete. Some students are even able to complete the degree requirements in 18 months or fewer, depending on the student and the institution. Universities that offer online classes may allow students to extend the duration of the program, in order to best match each student's amount of available time per semester.

5. Become certified as an advanced practice registered nurse

In addition to the federally required registered nurse certification, APRNs must uphold specific licensing requirements for their chosen specialty. Further federal certification is often needed, and state licensing boards may ask advanced practice registered nurses to pass state-sanctioned examinations.

The BLS reports the median annual wage for registered nurses was $63,750 in 2009, with excellent job opportunities expected from 2008 to 2018. As the field of advanced practice nursing continues to grow, dedicated APRNs nationwide are performing the delicate and essential responsibilities of their profession with skill and patience, certain that the work they are doing is contributing to a better overall quality of life for their communities.

Nursing Schools
Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Showing schools in your area

            Matching School Ads
            Master of Science in Nursing: Nursing Administration
            • Liberty University provides a worldclass education from a christ-centered worldview
            • 100% online programs at associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels
            • No standardized testing if student meets admission requirements
            • Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
            • 95% of Liberty University students receive some form of financial aid
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Master of Science in Nursing

            Founded in 1887, Benedictine University is dedicated to the education of undergraduate and graduate students. Benedictine is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

            Benedictine University provides a values-centered Liberal Arts education. Today, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students from all 50 states in the US and over 17 countries.

            Why Benedictine University Online?

            • Over 130 year legacy of academic excellence
            • Ranked among America's Top Colleges by "Forbes" Magazine
            • 91% of current students report they are satisfied or very satisfied with their learning experience
            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Accelerated Programs
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Nursing (RN to BSN)
            • Ranked among the Best Grad Schools for Physician Assistants in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Dedicated to delivering quality education and personalized attention to students since 1899.
            • Provides a range of campus experiences and services online including advising, tutoring, student community, and career services.
            • Offers counseling services and a 24/7 crisis hotline to students at no extra charge.
            • Gives students and alumni access to career assistants who help with resumes, cover letters, job hunting, and more.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            RN to BSN
            • Established in 1888 with the mission to prepare global citizens with broad knowledge, marketable professional skills, and the ability to make decisions with integrity and international perspective.
            • Has bachelor, and graduate degree programs in business, education, computer science, information technology, and criminal justice.
            • Offers small classes with convenient one-class-per-month schedules, monthly start dates, and more.
            • Provides scholarships to those who qualify.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            RN to BSN Online Option

            Designed by RNs for RNs

            Chamberlain’s RN to BSN option offers convenient 100% online coursework, no mandatory login times and no campus visits. This flexible framework allows you to continue in your current role while you pursue your degree. And, because the curriculum is developed and taught by RNs who are also educators, you know you are learning what you need to push your skills forward now – and in the future.

            • Online Courses
            Featured Schools
            Nursing Career Profiles
            We have made updates to our Privacy PolicyPrivacy Policy to reflect the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation.